Small Business Growing Pains: Communication Is Key For Keeping Customers Happy
What happens when your small business grows and you can’t handle every customer personally? As a small business owner, you are closer to your customer than any large company ever can be.
This personal touch is a great thing. It builds trust and loyalty and results in repeat business and enthusiastic referrals. But adding employees to handle your growing business comes with a challenge: How can you expand without losing that personal touch that sets you apart?
I don’t expect that Apple CEO Tim Cook will come to fix my iPhone, but I assume the small business owner I’ve known for years will personally handle my projects forever.
I recently saw this scenario play out when I called a plumber I’ve used for years to install a new kitchen faucet. Arthur and I go way back. Over time, he has become a trusted friend, offering great advice, doing top-quality work, and sometimes even giving me a little discount. I’ve recommended him to neighbors and friends over and over.
But this time, when his wife answered the phone, she said she’d be happy to schedule Arthur, but he was quite busy, and it would be a few days before he could come by. If I wanted the work done sooner, she’d send a new, recently hired plumber to install my faucet instead.
My emotions were mixed. I was genuinely happy for Arthur that his business was doing so well. Maybe I contributed to his success in some small way by making all those referrals.
But I was disappointed he could no longer provide the personal service I enjoyed.
I opted to have the new plumber do the job and hung up.
Soon I got a text from Arthur confirming the appointment. The next day, another text said “Johnny” was on his way. Sure enough, he showed up at my door and started installing my faucet.
He was friendly and very competent. Like Arthur, Johnny was full of good advice, despite being a good 25 years younger. After he was gone (leaving the kitchen slightly cleaner than it had been when he arrived), I got a text from Arthur saying he hoped everything went well and asking me to let him know if that was not the case. Arthur was still as invested in my satisfaction as always.
Looking back, he handled this transition perfectly.
Here are the things Arthur, his wife, and Johnny did right:
Tip #1 – They Let Me Choose
When she got my call, Arthur’s wife didn’t just assign Johnny to the job; she let me make that choice. So I didn’t feel abandoned by Arthur because I was the one who decided to have Johnny install my faucet.
Tip #2 – They Kept Me Informed
It’s amazing how effective a simple text can be. Not only did the texts from Arthur confirm the appointment and let me know Johnny’s arrival time, but the texts had a personal feel. I knew I could have replied, and Arthur would have taken care of whatever I needed. The Index app lets you set appointment confirmations and reminders.
Tip #3 – They Did Great Work
Arthur chose his new plumber well. Johnny was friendly and smart, and he did a great job. The result? I remain an enthusiastic customer and feel comfortable recommending Arthur and his growing business.
Tip #4 – They Kept in Touch
Scheduling regular check-ins gives you the opportunity to say thank you, remind customers that it might be time for another appointment, or offer tips related to your product or services. Again, the Index app makes all this easy to handle.
A Final Note
Another way to keep customers happy as you grow is to make sure your employees know that their most important job is to create satisfied customers, then give them the authority to do that. For example, an employee shouldn’t have to check with you before offering a small discount if something goes awry or making an exception to a policy if they think that will make the customer happy.
Of course, it’s also essential that you know what’s happening. So let your employees know they have to “keep you in the loop.” One easy way is through Index’s contact notes feature, which lets your employees share information with you and the rest of the team.
The bottom line is this: growing your business doesn’t have to leave your customers feeling abandoned if you work hard to preserve those important relationships.
Jim Monroe is an author, business leader, marketing and product strategist. He is passionate about helping young managers be successful by avoiding common mistakes. His latest book on management is “Don’t Be a Jerk Manager: The Down & Dirty Guide to Management.”
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